Regional Medical Center, other hospitals in eastern Iowa, facing capacity issues

Staff at RMC say they are struggling to transfer overly sick patients to bigger hospitals because of COVID-19 pandemic
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 10:19 PM CDT
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MANCHESTER, Iowa (KCRG) - Staff at Regional Medical Center said the hospital is nearing capacity, but not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heather Ries, the center’s chief nursing officer, said Regional Medical Center has between two and four COVID-19 patients, but those patients in addition to non-COVID patients are pushing them toward their limit. She worries, though, that as positive cases of the virus continue to rise, they might get overwhelmed sooner rather than later.

“This situation is very real,” Ries said, in a statement. “Contrary to some perceptions, COVID-19 is not an elderly person disease. With the new Delta variant that is circulating, younger people ranging from their mid 20s to 50s are getting sicker and sicker more quickly than with the previous strain of COVID-19. Seeing young people this sick is very difficult and trying for our team members.”

Their secondary concern is a regional one. In a video posted on social media, Ries explained the concern about patients who are very sick and need a higher trauma hospital.

”What is causing alarm right now is the ability to transfer patients who need to be transferred,” Ries said. “And what that means is a patient that is potentially exceeding our level of care, when patients are increasing their acuity, their criticalness and their complexity and we may want to transfer, we are not able to do that.”

Ries said they are not able to transfer patients because many other hospitals and medical centers in eastern Iowa are also experiencing capacity concerns. She explained, usually, they would transfer patients to Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, or Waterloo, but now they are having to send them to farther away places like Des Moines or Mason City.

In a statement to KCRG-TV9, UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital said it is “seeing increasing numbers of patients being admitted with a COVID-19 diagnosis” but is not in surge capacity. Staff says, though, they are constantly monitoring hospital census, staffing, and bed capacity and have contingency plans in place in case they do reach surge capacity.

A representative with MercyOne hospitals said, in a statement, that “MercyOne hospitals are currently facing capacity challenges in Des Moines, Dubuque, Mason City and Waterloo.” He said this is also coupled with a limited number of staff.

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